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Four ways to safeguard your property this winter

Four ways to safeguard your property this winter
06-07-23 / Tommy Jackson

Four ways to safeguard your property this winter

While winter may be associated with the crackling of a fireplace and cozy nights indoors, the colder months come with their fair share of risks for homeowners. Low temperatures and windy weather as well as heavy rainfall in some parts of the country, could result in some costly damages.

“However, by proactively addressing some of these risks,” says Karen Rimmer, Head of Distribution at PSG Insure, “you can ensure a safe and stress-free winter season for you and your home.”

Sink or swim?

South African winters can often usher in some torrential rain, particularly in regions surrounding the Cape Peninsula. When water is not prevented from leaking into homes, seeping into walls and supporting structures as well as absorbing into flooring, the damage can be extensive. With time, exposure to water can cause laminated flooring to warp, wooden structures to buckle and bubbles to form under paint. In the longer term, moisture damage can lead to problems such as mould and mildew, which can have health implications for those who live in your home.

Some of the most effective ways to safeguard against these risks include repairing all roof leaks, checking that roof tiles are secure and cleaning all gutters to allow for the free flow of water, long before winter kicks in.

“One of the most common mistakes that homeowners make heading into the colder season, is failing to perform these maintenance checks and duties,” explains Rimmer. “This is one of the factors that insurers will look into when considering claims related to water damage. Failure to produce proof that you have made efforts to maintain and repair your roof when needed, may lead to your claim being repudiated.”

Keep warm but stay watchful

Ongoing loadshedding has placed South African households under even more pressure this year. For a more viable solution to non-electrical internal heating, many have turned to portable gas heaters and wood fires. But these alternatives also present several risks to homeowners. 

When fireplaces are used, it’s important to prevent blockages caused by smoke and soot by having chimneys regularly checked and cleared. Not only can blocked or dysfunctional chimneys increase the risk of a house fire, but the excess emission of carbon monoxide can pose a serious health risk.

When using gas systems for cooking and heating, it’s also important to have your gas tank installed by qualified professionals. Gas equipment must also be installed in accordance with South African Bureau of Standards' requirements, which includes ensuring that no gas bottle exceeding 19kg’s is stored within your building. Regulations also indicate that all gas bottles must be installed, at least one metre or more away from doors and windows, as well as two metres or more from drains and air vents.

“When these requirements have been adequately met, homeowners will be issued with a certificate of conformity – an essential document that is required in the event of a gas-related insurance claim,” adds Rimmer.

Stay safe while powering up

While loadshedding has certainly made a dent in the volume of electricity being used by households during an average day, winter places power systems under increased pressure when the power is on due to the ongoing use of appliances like tumble-dryers and electrical room heaters, which usually work overtime to counteract the chill. The longer use of lights and increased geyser consumption also places additional strain on the grid during the colder, darker months.

Chances are, at least some of your appliances will be in use when loadshedding happens, and this holds the risk of a power surge once power is restored. You can manage the risk of damage to appliances by switching off all appliances at the plug until the power has been restored. Surge protectors, which can be installed on individual plug points or on the home’s distribution board are also an effective way of protecting appliances from sudden electrical spikes.

“Depending on your insurer,” says Rimmer, “having surge protection may be a prerequisite for getting a claim approved and will certainly work in your favour in optimising the chances of a speedy payout for electrical damage.”

It's time for a geyser health check

Another common claim associated with colder weather relates to burst geysers. Sudden drops in temperature can cause geyser tanks to expand and contract at a higher rate than in warmer months. This can make your geyser more susceptible to malfunctioning. However, neglecting to maintain the tank can also lead to faster wear and tear.

To avoid this, you could fit your system with a geyser blanket that will insulate the tank and reduce heat loss. This could help in extending the lifespan of the tank while also decreasing its overall electricity consumption.

In addition, using temperature control mechanisms such as thermostats will ensure that the temperature of the tank remains constant despite fluctuations. The corrosion of the tank can be slowed down by regular service checks, conducted by a qualified plumber, who can help identify signs that your geyser may need to be replaced.

“If you need expert advice on how to beat the chill, insurance advisers are best positioned to help homeowners find the most efficient ways of protecting their property against winter-related risks. Talking to your adviser will help you make informed decisions about how to safeguard your property and ensure peace of mind when the frost bites,” concludes Rimmer.

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